Gay Heavens Of London
I just got back from an eight-day trip in London. A lot of people responded well to my story of visiting a leather bar in Baltimore, so I’d love to share more travel stories.
Now, I’ve already shared my thoughts on the more PG side of the city with stuff like my thoughts on the boroughs, on a few plays I saw, and pictures of the food that I ate. If you’re interested in that, you can head over to my post on Instinct Magazine.
That said, if you’re looking for stories about my time in some gay clubs in London, then look no further than down below.
First, I visited the Pleasuredrome, which is a gay bathhouse in Waterloo that may have seen better days.
Many people on the internet have the opinion that this location is not as good as it used to be. They think that it’s like many gay bathhouses, neglected and the cruising spot for “creepy older men.” When I visited however, I found it to only be slightly within the truth of that story.
First off, it’s location.
Pleasuredrome is right around the corner from a major transportation station that has access to several tube and train lines.
Because of this populated location, I found entering Pleasuredrome to be a bit daunting. It was a Monday night around 7 or 8 pm so heaps of pedestrians walked by (never less than 20 people on that street) trying to get home.
At the door I was welcomed, and questioned if I knew where I was. I answered yes and paid the entry fee (which I think was reduced possibly because of my age/look [I’m 22 but some say I look younger] or the fact that I was a foreigner).
From there, I walked in and found the locker room. Wonderfully, there was this 30+ year old Asian man sitting on a bench watching me as I undressed.
Seriously, the man was clearly waiting to see me take my clothes off and while I was ok with it (‘cause I knew what I’d signed myself up for) that was a horrible way to start off the night. If you’re ever in a gay bathhouse, don’t be like that guy. Don’t be a creep.
I then went downstairs to explore the area. There was a simple shower section with maybe 8 shower heads to choose from, a bar and hang out area, a few mats for laying (with a tv screen above that was oddly playing Lord of the Rings), two sauna rooms, a hot tub, and an upstairs section with free stalls for… “entertaining.”
I spent my time hopping from one area to the next to see what each was like. It was around this time that I realized that the place had a smell to it. I couldn’t figure out what it was so I sat there (in the hang out section) for a few minutes trying to figure it out. I soon realized it was the smell of B.O.
Ironically, a bathhouse had a slight smell of man sweat. I don’t think the place was dirty, but that smell alone makes me think the staff may be skimping on a cleaning step or two.
That said, the staff were generally courteous. The staff (who all seemed to be in their 20s while the clientele that night were mostly 30+) were mostly hanging out by the bar. They seemed to either be working or talking, but I had the feeling that they were also keeping an eye on the guests.
Though, at one point when I was standing in a hallway deciding if I wanted to put my glasses in my locker, a staffer asked if I was alright. Just that little moment of humanity earns this spot a few brownie points from me.
Another nice moment was when I laid down on the mats and an older gentleman laid down next to me. He came on to me, but I politely said I was there to look and not touch. He understood and respectively backed away.
That’s an example of what to do when turned down in a bathhouse, gentlemen. An example of what not to do would be with the next guy I met.
I decided to go in the hot tub (because it’s a hot tub) and just a minute into me sitting down another man decided to join me with little room between us.
He said hi, and I, being passively agreeable, decided to acknowledge his existence by starting a conversation with him and noting his great smile.
Sadly, he took this to mean I was interested and he started to touch me. I said I wasn’t interested and got up to leave. He then followed me.
I entered the shower to wash up before heading out and guess who I felt behind me. Don’t you know, I quickly got out of there.
While I certainly am not afraid of ever revisit Pleasuredrome, I do acknowledge that there were some creepy men who I met there. That said, there are still reasonable and kind people in the place as well. It’s a mixed bag.
2. Vault 139
Next, we have Vault 139. If I thought Pleasuredrome was a little much with sexual energy, I was floored by it in this place.
I found Vault 139 on the internet and assumed that it was another bathhouse based off of some random comment on reddit. Turns out I was wrong, because this is a full out sex club.
The spot itself isn’t that big but can probably fit 100 men comfortably. When I went, it was 10pm on a Friday night and there were maybe 40 men within. That led to a good-sized party inside.
Plus, the age differences were much more balanced in this place and on this night. There were men in their 20s, 30s, 40s and maybe even older, but it seemed like a balanced amount of each.
The place was set up to have a small changing room (there are themed clothes nights like underwear night, come as you are night, and even a naked night), a bar and lounge area, a few hallways with stalls in them (again, for private entertainment) and a few bigger dark rooms for more public fun.
I decided to stay a moment for a drink (one comes free with entry) and to look around.
Like I said, this place oozed sexual energy as men were there only for sex. Which made me wondered what the staffers must think as they work while surrounded by random men having sex.
I then looked around a bit but realized that as much as I talk about and appreciate these corners of gay society, I ironically am not that into it myself. I just don’t wanna be that guy having sex while 30 random men look on.
After that realization, I looked a little but ultimately left without engaging with anyone. (That, of course, didn’t stop one older black man from literally forcing me to touch him after I already said no).
If you’re looking for a sex club, this is a good one to check out. It might even be worth seeing even if you don’t want to participate, like me. That said, know what you’re getting yourself into before you walk past the door.
3. G-A-Y Bar/Late
Next, we have G-A-Y Bar and G-A-Y Late. These bars (plus another site called Heaven) are connected to a company that has placed them all under the “G-A-Y” label. Thanks to that, you can often find discounts on drinks and entry across all three locations. Especially, if you have a membership subscription.
G-A-Y Bar seems like a smaller bar setting where you can drink and dance until midnight. Sadly, I don’t know for sure because I got there around 11 and was refused entry. The bouncer said only members at that point since they were closing soon.
Luckily though, a few guys were handing out discount entry bracelets for another club called Heaven which I had already planned to visit that night.
Then, I walked 5 minutes around the corner to go to G-A-Y Late. This is a medium sized venue that’s shaped like a curved oval or maybe an arrowhead. Each end of the room has a big space for dancing with seats attached the walls. Then on the bottom wall of the area was a long bar that was crowded with people trying to get a drink.
Now I’ll be honest, I was self-conscious while in this bar/club. It had a sort of click-y feel to it where everyone seemed to be with friends. The spot was still intimate and small enough to be good for hanging out with people you know and not so much for partying with anybody you see.
As such, I quickly got a drink, drank it, stood around while people sang to pop songs with their friends, and then left out.
The coat check guy even said, “Leaving already?” when I went to get my coat. Ouch.
Now I come to the best venue during my stay in London.
With my extremely limited understanding of the city of London, I say that Heaven is a go to location and possibly the best gay club in the city.
Keep in mind, this location is no longer just a “gay men” club. It has now become what we see a lot of popular gay clubs turning into, a club with a gay twist instead of a “gay club.”
That said, all of the straight people there did not get in the way of me having a good time. In fact, they might have helped it.
I went to Heaven on two nights (a Thursday night and a Saturday night) and the place was packed on both nights.
On Thursday, drag queen Peppermint was performing, but I got there at the tail-end of her show (which entailed two guys stripping for money).
From there, the venue turned into a dance club with a wide space. I, with a drink in hand, looked around for a bit and then started dancing. I didn’t stop until the club closed at 4 am.
Now, I found this spot to be easier for interaction because it wasn’t so click-y feeling. It was a club so people were more open to interacting with strangers if it involved dancing.
In fact, one man came up to me to dance and I made an instant friend (although he was clearly piss drunk as he started touching a couple to the side of us. I had to grab his arm and take him away from the two).
Then the Saturday night, I decided to arrive around 1 am (so technically Sunday morning). The line was LONG, and I ended up waiting for an hour to get in. Luckily that gave me time to talk to people and I ended up sticking with a few of them for the rest of the night.
That night, I realized the venue was even bigger than I imagined it. The one section I stayed in on Thursday was one of two. An equally large section was found on the second floor with hip-hop music playing (though heads up, DJs in both sections weren’t good. They just played songs all the way through).
I will note that while I just enjoyed dancing either by myself or with others, the place was a great cursing spot without the heaviness on the sex. Men flirted and made out without hesitation, but nobody was getting down and dirty on the dance floor (that I saw).
Those were all of the gay spots that I visited during my time in London.
What do you think? Have you visited any of these spots? Know any spots I should have checked out that I didn’t? Share your thoughts in the comments.
And again, if you want to know about the other stuff I did in London and the UK (that wasn’t gay related) feel free to click here to read my Instinct Magazine post.